A story in the Virginia Pilot concerning a home invasion and shooting outside of Norfolk, Va. originally provided a suspect description that included “black males” but the story was changed to exclude that part of the description. Should editors include black, white, Asian (etc.) as descriptions in news stories when racial identification is pertinent?
The current story is here, and includes the following paragraph.
Little is known about the two other suspects other than their basic descriptions: one is 5-foot-8 to 6 feet tall, weighing 180 pounds and was wearing a green jacket and blue jeans; the other is 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-3, weighing 200 pounds and was wearing a brown jacket.
The original story did describe the men as black men in addition to the description in the current article. I contacted Veronica Gonzalez and she confirmed. Via email she responded…
Yes. I’m not sure why that’s not online again, but yes, they were both described as black men.
The 2007 hard-copy of the AP Style Guide I have provides guidelines for race when racial identification is pertinent in a story. You would think that when describing suspects law enforcement are looking for, the race – if known – would be pertinent.
In this case, it appears an editor removed the racial identification from the story after it was submitted by the writer. Your comments?